BEST PERFORMANCES of the year
First up what my picks for the Best Actor Oscar would be:
-Tim Blake Nelson in OLD HENRY proved Nelson needs to become an action hero.
-Frankie Faison in THE KILLING OF KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN is soul crushing as a man who accidentally hit his medic alert button and an hour later was killed by the police.
-Michael Caine in BEST SELLER in what was briefly billed as his final film Caine devours the screen in a seemingly cliched role that transcends it to be pure magic.
-Udo Keir in SWAN SONG proves just how great he is.
-Jeffrey Wright in THE FRENCH DISPATCH riffs on James Baldwin but gives us something way more moving and challenging than just copying the man.
-Clifton Collins in JOCKEY is beyond words. This isn't a performance but something greater. In the year since I saw the film his performance has taken on a mythic stature. He puts the film on the best of the year list (see below) single handedly
-Yes Kristen Stewart is that good as Diana in SPENCER. Having seen her in person there is no hint of her real self in the performance.
-Jason Mamoa in DUNE is pitch perfect. He is the perfect hero. We understand why Paul, and everyone truly loves him. Hopefully he will return, as he does in the books. Down the road Mamoa will be remembered more this role than Aquaman
And now my personal list of the Best Films of 2021 in no particular order
UNINVITED GUEST- a short film about people having dinner and ignoring the police beating a black man outside. It speaks volumes in mere moments.
ATTICA-A retelling of the the prison riot that changed America that just floored me with details that I seemed never to have heard after years of studying the riot.
DUNE- the first half of the book is a film that is part of my soul. Every time I see it I want to start it over again as soon as it finishes. This is the film that was in my head for decades.
BELLE-A modern day Beauty and the Beast that is so much more. It dares riff the Disney classic and then one ups it. I wept at the beauty of the film from start too finish
MAD GOD-one of the greatest films ever made (yes really). The first half hour is perhaps the highest achievement in animation I've ever run across.
CODA- I had no intention of seeing this at Sundance but everyone said I had to and I did and it made me feel good for weeks.
PAPER AND GLUE- Probably my favorite film of 2021. It is a glorious celebration of JR and his work
BERNSTEINS WALL-Leonard Bernstein's life and times gloriously laid out. This isn't just about the man but about the things he loved and explains why we should care.
BLUSH-Magnificent short about an astronaut and an alien and life. It destroyed me in the best possible way.
THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES-Its up to the Mitchells to save the world and this is more proof the best animated films are not coming from Disney
SLEEPING NEGRO- I still don't know what I think of this film but it hasn't left me in the year since I saw it. Few films have ever done that.
TAI PEI SUICIDE STORY-romance in a suicide hotel. Holy shit this is magnificent.
EIGHT FOR SILVER- A social commentary cum werewolf film is so much more than a straight horror film. Why aren't people talking about this?
FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKIKO- Life and love of a mom and her daughter. I wept because Nikiko was my mom in a film of the life she never led.
RED ORCHESTRA- True life spy doc about two groups fighting the Nazis
SPACEWALKER-True story of a spacewalk gone sideways that most people don't know. Manna from heaven and dire warning for anyone who wants to travel to the stars.
ONE FOR THE ROAD- a road trip of two friends one of whom is dying. Yea its been done but not like this and rarely with this much life.
JOCKEY- Tale of a jockey trying to win one more race is gloriously its own thing. (also see above)
The editing in URBAN SPHINX is beyond words. Weaving together street art in a way you've never seen to create pure magic.
MY DAD IS A HEEL WRESTLER- Young boy has to come to terms with his dad being a wrestling bad guy. Wow, just wow.
WHO WE ARE: A CHRONICLE OF RACISM IN AMERICA- why we think what we do on matters of race.
KATA- The philosophy of martial artist that transcends being just about that
LAST MEAL- An exploration of the death penalty through prisoners last meals
QUEEN OF BASKETBALL- The story of the first woman drafted by the NBA and a wonderful human being
LAST FILM SHOW- a its the story of a young boy who falls in love with cinema. This is the birth of an obsession and magic.
CHOICE OF WEAPONS- The life and influence of Gordon Parks.
UNDER THE OPEN SKY- a reinvention of the yakuza gets out of jail and goes straight drama. Its a film that largely is something we haven't seen before. The best film in numerous fests I saw this year and one of my favorite films.
GIRL WITH A THERMAL GUN- a delivery man falls for the girl who takes his temperature. Possibly the best romance of 2021 is also the best dance film of the year.
OPERATION LUCHADORE- If you accept that masked wrestlers helped win the Second World War you will have a glorious time at the movies.
COMEBACK ANY TIME-hunger inducing portrait of a couple, their ramen shop and their customers. Magic of the highest order.
BOB SPIT: WE DO NOT LIKE PEOPLE- This masterpiece of animation is not for all audiences. For those who are ready for a punk rock documentary biography scifi road film that is occasionally going to poke you in the eye this film is going to be so much damn fun not to mention informative
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS is largely a stand alone MCU film. It's also the first time I felt genuine wonder in a film in the series. It has real characters who aren't black or white and more importantly every damn thing that happens has a cost. Characters die, really die not superhero deaths.
FRENCH DISPATCH- Maybe the best Wes Anderson film maybe uneven but the moments that soar (and Jeffrey Wright) are why we go to the movies. They are pure magic and why I love the movies